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Men and women may be made for each other, but the design sure could use a little tweaking. On average, men have five to 10 times the level of testosterone and three times the sexual interest that women have. And unlike women, for whom sex drive is highly individual, there is little variation among men. Among happily married couples under age 40, about 31 percent of women report a lack of sexual desire, while only 16 percent of men have (or admit to) that complaint. Research shows that the majority of men have one or more sexual fantasies every day, compared to only 25 percent of women.
Psychological factors play a role in male desire, but hormones are the key. That is, until men reach middle age. As testosterone levels gradually decline, usually beginning in the 40s, many men become more dependent on physical stimulation for arousal than, say, the sight of an attractive woman.
Still, the testosterone well runs deep. Although a 45-year-old man typically has a lower testosterone level than a 25-year-old, many men have normal testosterone levels throughout their lives. They will, however, probably initiate sex less frequently in midlife. About 5 percent of men in their 40s start to experience arousal problems; a decade later, that number doubles to 10 percent.
As with women, stress also figures in any discussion of the male libido. Says Sheryl Kingsberg, Ph.D., assistant professor of reproductive biology and psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, "One of life's little ironies is that women need to be relaxed to want to have sex, while for men, sex is a stress-reliever."